Alzheimer’s disease, according to the experts at the Mayo Clinic, “is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away (degenerate) and die,” in addition to being the most common cause of dementia. Nearly 6 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and it affects people over the age of 65 at a disproportionately high rate. Additionally, it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and the Alzheimer’s Association notes that “1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia [and] it kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.”
Needless to say, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease presents a unique challenge. When you’re caring for a person who is experiencing a steady decline in both thinking and daily living skills, caring for that person can prove to be quite the challenge. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, some medications can help to slow down the effects of this disease.
The Alzheimer’s Society recommends “person-centered care involving tailoring a person’s care to their interests, abilities, history, and personality.”
The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
The progression of Alzheimer’s disease can be broken down into a number of different stages. In its early stages, a person will likely have trouble remembering recent conversations and difficulty remembering where they placed certain objects. In its early stages, it’s still incredibly common for a person to be able to continue on in his or her daily life with relatively few setbacks or difficulties. If you are a friend or relative of a person who has recently started to have such difficulties, the best thing you can do is schedule a comprehensive examination with a physician.
In its next stage, people with Alzheimer’s disease may need to seek help with daily activities. Common regressions include not being able to remember their own backstory, frequent changes in mood, forgetfulness about things like phone numbers and addresses, issues with sleeping throughout the night, and confusion about where they currently are. Because each person is different, some people will have no problem remembering significant details about their lives, but they may start to forget to pay bills or take care of everyday tasks. The opposite could also be the case.
As Alzheimer’s disease develops into its late stage, the Alzheimer’s Association notes that dementia symptoms are severe and “individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement.” They go on to say that “at this stage, individuals may need round-the-clock assistance with daily activities and personal care, lose awareness of recent experiences as well as their surroundings, experience changes in physical abilities including the ability to walk or sit, have increasing difficulty communicating, and become vulnerable to infections.”
Needless to say, when a person you love and care for starts to regress, it can be disheartening and difficult to handle. As difficult as it is, having the ability to track regression in people with Alzheimer’s disease is something that is absolutely vital, and that’s where the Assessment of Functional Living Skills comes in.
What is the AFLS?
The Assessment of Functional Living Skills, also known as the AFLS, is a criterion-referenced skills assessment tool, tracking system, and curriculum guide. It is used for teaching children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disabilities the essential skills they need in order to achieve the most independent outcomes. AFLS is the most versatile assessment system available and offers learners a pathway to independence.
What we have found is that it also represents a way to track regression in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Common Treatments for Alzheimer’s
The Mayo Clinic provides a number of tips for daily tasks, all with a focus on individualized care. They note that “each person with Alzheimer’s disease will experience its symptoms and progression differently” and that “caregiving techniques need to vary,” so it’s important to tailor a specific program to fit a person’s unique needs. The Assessment of Functional Living Skills allows you to do just that.
Further tips from the Mayo Clinic include reducing frustrations by planning a schedule, taking your time, getting your loved one involved, providing choices, and being flexible. The AFLS is the perfect way to do all of those things thanks to protocols focusing on Basic Living Skills, Home Skills, Community Participation Skills, School Skills, Vocational Skills, and Independent Living Skills. Each protocol is tied to the AFLS Guide which helps users with task analyses, teaching suggestions, prompting strategies, and more. In other words, it’s the perfect companion to the corresponding protocols.
Because the AFLS is designed to be effective for children, adolescents, and adults with developmental disabilities, it also makes for an ideal way to track regression in people with Alzheimer’s.
How You Can Use the AFLS for People With Alzheimer’s
Let’s take a look at the protocols covered in the Assessment of Functional Living Skills. We’ll start with Basic Living Skills. Within the AFLS, you have the ability to keep track of tasks, objectives, and criteria, while keeping scores and commentary on the task at hand.
For example, within the area of Basic Living Skills, a common task might be to complete the tooth brushing process at least twice a day. An example of a successful task is brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash without being told. The criteria for scoring is full points for independently completing the process twice a day and partial points for independently completing the process once a day.
Other daily skills might be replacing a paper towel roll when it’s empty, using a broom and dustpan, removing bedding, putting a pillow into a pillowcase, watering plants, and cleaning up.
In other words, no matter what unique challenges your loved one is facing, you can put together a daily living skills checklist that is specific to that person’s needs. Is your loved one struggling with skills at home? The Home Skills protocol reviews meals at home, dishes, clothing and laundry, housekeeping and chores, household mechanics, leisure, and cooking tasks.
It may be easy for you to track the decline of certain skills in your loved one, but it’s much more difficult to track a cognitive decline. The AFLS is an ideal companion for allowing you to do just that.
Using the Assessment of Functional Living Skills in Conjunction With Treatment
It will be absolutely vital to stay in contact with your doctor as you care for your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease. Providing personal care to your loved one is a challenge, but it also means that that person can still play an active role in many of the things that they enjoy. The Alzheimer’s Society recommends taking an approach that is centered on the unique needs of the person at hand rather than trying to take a general approach to care.
Their pointers include making it your point first and foremost to treat your loved one with respect and dignity. Other tips include making it a point to understand their history and lifestyle and learning about their hobbies and the things that interest them as well as providing them with opportunities to have conversations and relationships with new people. The big takeaway is that they advocate for “family, carers and the person with dementia (where possible) [to] always be involved in developing a care plan based on person-centered care.” The end result of having the person you’re caring for involved in the process of coming up with a care plan is that he or she can provide you with valuable input you may never have considered.
For example, as we mentioned above, tracking regression in people with Alzheimer’s disease can be a difficult thing to do. The AFLS can then be used as an independent living skills checklist, and one big benefit of using it as such is that it allows you to see things from the perspective of the person with Alzheimer’s. This is seen as one of the best things you can do if you’re involved in the treatment of your loved one.
How to Provide the Best Care Possible
By involving family, caregivers, doctors, and your loved one in the process of providing care, you can come up with a plan that is customized to suit your specific needs. The Alzheimer’s Association states the following:
“Eighty-three percent of the help provided to older adults in the United States comes from family members, friends or other unpaid caregivers. Nearly half of all caregivers who provide help to older adults do so for someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.”
As you no doubt realize, tracking the regression of a person with Alzheimer’s disease is a crucial step in changing the level and type of treatment that person is given. The Assessment of Functional Living Skills represents all of the daily skills a person might need, and being able to keep track of the area’s where your loved one is regressing allows you to formulate an evolving plan with your doctor in order to provide the best possible level of care. The AFLS is a criterion-referenced tool for assessing skills, tracking progress, and more. Although it was designed to help people with developmental disabilities to find a pathway to independence, reverse engineering it to suit the needs of a person with Alzheimer’s disease is one of the AFLS’s untapped potentials.
With protocols for measuring regression in areas like daily living skills, home skills, community participation skills, and more, the Assessment of Functional Living Skills contains a multitude of skills that a person would need to thrive independently. Learn more about the AFLS protocols here and place your order today to gain a valuable tool in tracking the regression of people with Alzheimer’s disease.
At Functional Living Skills, our goal is to create developmental tools and programs to help teach practical daily living skills to people living with developmental disabilities. We believe in forging a pathway to independence for those with developmental disorders. The AFLS was created to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder to develop the skills they need to succeed. This program is the most versatile assessment system available and offers learners a unique opportunity to be independent. While some areas are difficult, others come a bit easier. Our assessment protocols allow you to fill in the gap, tailoring the approach you take to meet a person’s specific needs.
No training or special tools are required to use the Assessment of Functional Living Skills, and it is packed with practical and simple-to-use methods of creating your own independent living skills checklist with the ability to keep track of the results. With six interchangeable protocols and an accompanying guide to measure progress, the AFLS addresses nearly 2,000 different skills over 66 different areas.
The end goal is to create a dynamic pathway to independence regardless of where a person is currently functioning. The authors of the FLS, Dr. Michael Mueller and Dr. James Partington, have dedicated their careers to working in this field. The result is a product that can be used by teachers, parents, caregivers, and anyone else working with an individual. Regardless of that person’s age, this useful tool has been proven to show immediate results.
The authors of the AFLS offer workshops as well as personalized training to provide education to educators, caregivers, and professionals working with people with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. Learn more about the authors and their research here, or feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about the Assessment of Functional Living Skills.